• Remember That Time When BMW Built An X5 With the McLaren F1’s V-12

Who still remembers the bonkers, one-of-one BMW X5 Le Mans?

While the association between an SUV, be it the sporty BMW X5, and Le Mans should never have happened, German engineers pulled it off just for laughs. That’s how the X5 Le Mans was born, with a little help from a fire-breathing V-12.

Remember That Time When BMW Built An X5 With the McLaren F1's V-12
- image 984001
The year was 2000 when BMW took an X5 off the production line in South Carolina and brought it to Munich, where it was fitted with the 6.1-liter V-12 the Germans used in the LMR race car one year earlier at Le Mans.

Only in the X5, power output went beyond 700 horsepower, while the race car “only” had 580 horses at its disposal due to the mandatory air intake limiters.

Other than the massive power output, the X5 Le Mans cranked out 720 Newton-meters of torque (that’s about 530 pound-feet) and needed just 4.7 seconds to reach 100 kph (62 mph) from a standstill. The official top speed was 278 kph (173 mph), but race driver Hans-Joachim Stuck drove the X5 LM without rear seats and managed to hit 311 kph (193 mph).

Remember That Time When BMW Built An X5 With the McLaren F1's V-12
- image 984002
BMW X5 Le Mans specifications
Engine 6.1-liter V-12
Horsepower 700 HP
Torque 530 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.7 seconds
Top Speed 278 km/h (173 mph)

Car and Driver wrote back in 2001 that making the engine swap was easier than expected. The donor car’s engine – a 4.4-liter V-8 – was wider and longer than the V-12, so the latter was easily mounted under the hood. However, it was heavier (by 176 pounds) and it needed a 50-percent larger cooling area. To solve the need for better airflow, BMW’s engineers cut holes in the front bumper and hood.

Remember That Time When BMW Built An X5 With the McLaren F1's V-12
- image 984007

Even more interesting is that initially, BMW wanted to plonk the V-10 from Ralf Schumacher’s Williams-BMW F1 car inside the X5. That plan was dropped since the stock transmission couldn’t deal with an 18,000-rpm redline. Speaking of the gearbox, the X5 LM ended up with a twin-plate racing clutch and the transmission (six speeds, manual!) of an 8 Series coupe. A pair of 20-inch BBS wheels replaced the stock set and the suspension was lowered by 30 mm.

In a way, the audacious BMW X5 LM was a sample of what BMW could do with a high-riding SUV in terms of performance. We can therefore say that the X5 LM paved the way for the X5 M and had the task of preparing people for the madness that was about to come.

Tudor Rus
Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read full bio
About the author

Related Articles

2007 BMW X5 LeMans

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: